Former President George W. Bush pushed back against President Donald Trump’s work to deny millions of immigrants and refugees entry into America, saying such efforts would exclude many people who could someday become “good citizens.”
In an interview with NBC set to air on “Sunday Today,” host Willie Geist asked Bush if he thought it were practical for the Trump administration to follow through on campaign promises to “deport millions and millions of people.” Trump has continued to push forward on plans to build a border wall, amp up immigration enforcement agencies and increase deportations of undocumented immigrants.
“I don’t see how that would work,” Bush told Geist, before continuing: “It’s going to be hard to do.”
The former president pointed to his experience in Texas growing up with “a lot of people of Hispanic heritage” and his attempts to reform immigration policies during his time in office, when he sought to provide a pathway to legal residency for millions of undocumented immigrants. Those plans ultimately failed, but Bush maintained that many people currently protected by Obama-era immigration provisions like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, actively benefit American society.
“Well, I think somebody who’s vested time and effort and can make a contribution to our country will be a really good citizen,” Bush said. “See, in Texas, we grew up with a lot of people of Hispanic heritage, and, you know, we’re used to the contributions they have made to our state and to our country.”
Bush has been making the rounds promoting a new book of paintings and has been voicing criticisms about several key fights waged by Trump, including on immigration. In an interview with People magazine, Bush said he didn’t “like the racism and I don’t like the name-calling and I don’t like the people feeling alienated.” And during an interview with the “Today” show, he called for an “immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.”
“It’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to worship the way they want to or not worship at all,” Bush told “Today” host Matt Lauer. “I mean, the bedrock of our freedom ― a bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely.”